sThe speed, physical impact, competition, and dynamic nature of sports like hockey is often what draws us to them from day one. Unfortunately these factors can be responsible for injuries in sport, and even the most well-trained and durable athletes will inevitably have a sport related injury. Fortunately the body does a great job with rebuilding itself. Cutting edge techniques, sports doctors and surgeons, paired with the skills of physiotherapists, make it possible to recover from almost any injury.
While athletes have a lot of resources to heal their physical injuries, one area that often gets overlooked is the psychological aspect of injuries. The importance of staying mentally focused and healthy through the recovery process can be forgotten. Often a player can be fully recovered physically, but not yet prepared to step back into the full speed of hockey because of a psychological setback. Mental health and physical health actually go hand in hand, and by focusing on both you are bound to have a more successful recovery.
Teams should arguably be providing this service to players, just like they provide an athletic therapist. This article will share some ideas of things that players can do to stay focused throughout the recovery process.
Educate Yourself About Your Injury
The more you understand what is going on in your body, and why you are doing specific rehabilitation movements, the more focused and committed to recovery you will be. Ask your doctor or therapist as many questions as you need to, and be proactive about as much as you can. Taking an active approach towards learning about your recovery can help dramatically speed up the recovery process.
When working with an athletic therapist, being as honest as you can about the injury will go a long way. Keep in mind that recovery is a collaborative process. The more you learn, the easier it will be to keep your long term goals in mind throughout the recovery.
Stay Involved With Your Team
Staying as involved with your team as possible is something recommend to an athlete recovering from an injury. Not only will this keep you engaged, but it's always good for teams when injured players remain involved. Every athlete on the team is a valuable asset. Even if you aren’t on the ice contributing in that way, doing so in other areas can help bring some positivity to you during rehabilitation. However, at times it may feel like you aren’t doing your job on the the sidelines, and need to be in the action to help the team. This is completely normal and can be hard to deal with, however when it comes time to return to play, it will be a much easier transition back into the lineup.
Use the Time Off to Improve Other Aspects of Your Life
Finding something else to direct your attention to is one of the most important parts of this process. Hockey players are typically overwhelmed, and short on time and energy throughout the season. Especially in the case of student athletes. Although getting ahead on school work may not be the most appealing, doing so will make your life easier when it's time to get back on the ice.
Whether it's paying someone an overdue visit, learning something new, or diving into a hobby, this can help provide some feeling of productivity. You might also find this helps to distract yourself.
Continue Training and Exercising
Every injury has its own physical restrictions but it's very rare that an injury would completely limit all physical activity. It's not uncommon for athletes that have suffered a major injury to continue training as often as before. When these athletes have the mindset that they're going to come back stronger after the injury, not only do they often surpass their own expectations, but their overall outlook on the injury improves. Positivity plays a huge role in a fast recovery.
The rehabilitation process often leads to an improved body awareness, and emphasis on important aspects of training that tend to be overlooked. Although short term it may seem like being off the ice is slowing your progress, a successful rehab process can be looked at as an extend offseason. It can be a chance to improve some weaker areas. Everything we do in the gym is modifiable and coming in with an attitude of “my wrist may be broken, but I can still train legs” will not only make you better in the long term, but will also motivate your teammates around you to continue to work and improve.
Another important way hockey players can get better while injured is to train their brain and mind to be stronger and more prepared for sport. Working with a sport psychologist to improve focus, overcome fears, practice self talk techniques, visualization, or relaxation drills, can all help in improving as an athlete.
Ask for Help When You Need It
The most important thing you can do during recovery is to ask for help when you need it. Symptoms of anxiety and depression following an injury are very common, as are many psychological challenges. There has been a push in several sporting organizations to provide this support to players. NCAA share this information about the connection between mental health and physical injury.
If you're a college or professional hockey player, there are services provided for the team and at your disposal, should you want it. If your team doesn't have these services you may have to look elsewhere for someone to work with, however with the emerging science surrounding sport psychology there are many great resources available. Online resources like Headspace, are available to anyone and can be extremely effective places to start.
Returning from an injury is something most athletes will have to go through. By taking care of your mental health as well as recovering physically, you will likely return to the game even stronger than before. Don't forget to take the time you need for your mind. Mental health is just as, if not more than, important as physical health.
Kyle is a Hockey Performance Specialist who’s worked with hundreds of hockey players from Peewee to Pro. A former elite hockey player, Kyle earned his degree in Kinesiology before becoming a Strength Coach that specializes in hockey performance. Today, he runs Relentless Hockey where he works with players across the world, including pros in over 20+ leagues including the NHL, KHL, and OHL.